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Capital moment

Washington beats Buffalo, advances to Stanley Cup Finals

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Posted: Friday June 05, 1998 01:50 AM

  The Capitals outshot the Sabres 18-10 in the third and overtime periods to collect the glory of the Wales Trophy and advance with a shot at Lord Stanley's cup (AP)

BUFFALO, New York (AP) -- The ghosts of seasons past are gone. Nobody can call the Washington Capitals chokers any more. For the first time in their 24-year history, they're in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Joe Juneau's goal 6:24 into overtime lifted the Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, wrapping up the Eastern Conference finals in six games.

"Everybody wants to be a hero in a game like this," Juneau said. "I really believed our line was going to end up scoring the winning goal."

Brian Bellows set up the winner when he swept around Darryl Shannon and tried stuffing the puck past Dominik Hasek. Juneau eventually grabbed the loose puck and sent it under Hasek's glove. Immediately after the goal light went on and referee Don Koharski signaled that the series was over, the Capitals poured off the bench and mobbed Juneau in the biggest celebration in team history.

"I had no idea we scored until the guys jumped off the bench," said Bellows, who played most of the season in Germany before being signed by the Capitals in March. "It was just silence. I figured it was either a goal or a brawl, and I didn't expect a brawl."

Washington's Peter Bondra sent the game into overtime when he redirected Andrei Nikolishin's cross-ice pass past Hasek with 5:59 remaining in the third period with the Capitals on the power play.

The Capitals, who have won seven of their last eight road games, will play the winner of the Detroit-Dallas series in the Stanley Cup, which starts Tuesday, June 9, at the Western Conference site. The Red Wings lead the Western Conference series 3-2 with Game 6 set for Friday night in Detroit.

Hasek (left) made 35 saves but allowed the overtime goal that ended his playoff record between the pipes at 10-5 (AP) 

With the victory, the Capitals erased any doubts about whether they would blow a 3-1 series lead for the fourth time in 11 years. Two of their previous series losses in that situation came against Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier in the decade. Buffalo was looking to do it again after winning Game 5, but Washington bounced back in Game 6.

"When they blew 3-1 leads in the past, the other team always had Mario Lemieux," Capitals coach Ron Wilson said. "There was no Mario Lemieux in these playoffs."

For Dale Hunter, it marked the first time in his 18-year career that he has reached the Stanley Cup Finals. He reached the conference finals three times, but his teams were swept in all three series.

"It's been a long time coming," Hunter said. "Having a chance to win the Stanley Cup is an unbelievable feeling."

Paul Kruse and Michael Peca scored for the Sabres, who were looking for their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1975. Esa Tikkanen scored the other goal for the Capitals, who won three of their four games over Buffalo in overtime. Buffalo had two good chances in the extra period, but Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig made a toe save on Jason Woolley early in overtime and stopped Vaclav Varada on a breakaway.

"It's a tough pill to swallow," Sabres first-year coach Lindy Ruff said. "We had our opportunities in overtime, but we had a turnover in the neutral zone. But I'm extremely proud of these guys."

Bondra's goal came moments after the Sabres had problems clearing the zone when Nikolishin trapped the puck along the boards and found Bondra alone in close. Bondra easily tipped the pass into the open side, setting up overtime.

  Kolzig made 30 of his 39 saves in the first two periods of Game 6 (AP)

The game was shaping into another scoreless duel between Hasek and Kolzig before Peca and Tikkanen each scored their first goals of the series 22 seconds apart in the second period. In the end, Kolzig was the difference in the series. Olie the Goalie kept the Capitals in Game 6 and outplayed Hasek throughout the series.

"Olie has been the difference in a lot of games," Capitals forward Chris Simon said. "You need goaltending to be great in the playoffs, and he has been. It's great for Olie, and we're really proud of him."

Kolzig had been perfect and kept the Capitals in the game before allowing Peca's goal on a shot that went just under his arm. Buffalo had thoroughly outplayed Washington and was peppering Kolzig with shots through the first 33 minutes, but couldn't pull away. After managing just 16 shots in all of Game 5, the Sabres tested Kolzig 31 times in the first two periods.

Stanley Cup Finals
television schedule
Game Date Location Network
5 (if neccessary)
6 (if neccessary)
7 (if neccessary)
Tue. June 9
Thur. June 11
Sat. June 13
Tue. June 16
Thur. June 18
Sat. June 20
Tue. June 23
at Detroit/Dallas
at Detroit/Dallas
at Washington
at Washington
at Detroit/Dallas
at Washington
at Detroit/Dallas

Sabres forward Brian Holzinger was stymied three times alone, twice on rebounds as Buffalo camped in front of the Washington net. Buffalo had 10 straight shots at one point in the first period, but came away with nothing.

"Any time you beat the best goaltender in the world, it's satisfying," Kolzig said of Hasek, who led the Czech Republic to the gold medal in the Olympics and had an NHL-leading 13 shutouts this season.

Buffalo might have had Hasek, but it also had youth. Washington has the most experienced team in the playoffs, something that became increasingly important as the series went along.

"That's what got us through -- the character of the veterans," Kolzig said.


Related information
Staying alive: Langenbrunner's OT goal leads Stars past Red Wings 3-2
Sports Illustrated's Leigh Montville on Peter Bondra: Invisible Man
Inside the NHL with Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber: Coach, league clash over glowing puck
Kostya Kennedy's NHL Mailbag
Capitals-Sabres Game Summary
Washington Playoff Statistics
frame Check out how the Capitals tied the game late and beat out Hasek and the Sabres in overtime
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